CHCA defeats CCD for DIII spot in state baseball semfinals next week
FAIRBORN – The opponents couldn’t have been more familiar with one another.
Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy has been a dominant force in the Miami Valley Conference-Scarlet Division, having won or shared the league title every season since 2004. That is until this season when Cincinnati Country Day took the league under third-year coach Asif Shah.
The Nighthawks were 9-1 in the MVC-Scarlet to CHCA’s 7-3 and the teams split during the year.
The regional final proved to be the proverbial rubber game with CHCA using a five-run second inning and a dominant pitching performance from junior Cooper Robinson to beat CCD 5-1. The Eagles now move to the state tournament for the first time since 2017.
“Every time we play them, it’s a battle,” CHCA coach Tony Schulz said. “The two games we split during the regular season, neither team scored until the sixth inning or later. I tip my cap to them. They’re a worthy opponent.”
It’s their fourth-ever state tournament appearance as they also made it in 2004 and were state runners-up in 2014 when they had pitching phenom Cam Varga.
Robinson had a no-hitter until the sixth inning when Davis Campbell spoiled it with a long double to left that scored CCD’s lone run. The junior finished the sixth inning allowing just one hit and run with six strikeouts. He had been injured early in the season and gives CHCA mound depth with Will Murphy and Colin Ames.
“It was nice to keep him fresh for the early part of the season,” Schulz said. “Now he’s in mid-season form with a little bit more of his legs underneath him.”
Robinson was well aware of the goose eggs on the scoreboard in the sixth when CCD finally put up a number. Along the way, he was treated by web gems from left fielder Alex Moffit and shortstop Ty Yelton.
“I feel amazing!” Robinson said. “There were a lot of big plays. I have to thank my defense a lot. There were four or five circus catches helping out tremendously.”
The Eagles clawed out the early lead in an ugly second for the Nighthawks. It was a difficult frame for CCD freshman starter Parker Corbin. Johnathan Russell singled, Andrew Brock reached by error and both were bunted over by Ames. Will Murphy drove in both then Yelton struck out but reached on a wild pitch making it 3-0, then another wild pitch made it 4-0. A balk brought in a fifth run giving CHCA starter Robinson some major cushion.
CCD threatened by loading the bases on an error and two walks by Robinson in the fourth, but Zach Delbello’s liner went straight to the glove of left fielder Moffit.
The Nighthawks finally plated a run and spoiled Robinson’s no-hit bid when Corbin walked, moved to third on an error and scored on Davis Campbell’s double off of the left-field wall. Robinson then whiffed the last two batters he faced.
Will Murphy closed the game out allowing a hit to Brian Foster, but then doubled him up after catching a line drive off the bat of Troy Vredeveld. Jackson Campbell then flew out to CHCA’s Jack Vogele and Eagle pandemonium began.
CCD finishes at 22-9 after falling short of its first state tournament bid in 20 years. The loss to the Eagles broke an 11-game win streak.
“It speaks volumes fo the competition in our league,” CCD’s Shah said of their MVC rivals. “They’ve had a historic program for the last 20 years. It just wasn’t our day today. We had to burn through our top two arms yesterday. It was tough circumstances coming off a high, emotional game yesterday.”
Shah’s Nighthawks came from behind in eight innings to beat McNicholas 7-5 on Friday to earn the game with CHCA.
The 21-8 Eagles now travel to Akron where they’ll have a 10 a.m. Division III semifinal game with Barnesville (24-7) Thursday. Barnesville defeated Minford 10-7 Saturday.